Bombay Sapphire Distillery Launch – Laverstoke Mill

Yesterday saw the grand opening of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire. Since the creation of Bombay Dry in 1960, Bombay Sapphire in 1987, and Bombay Sapphire East in 2011, the gins have lacked a home base that would allow people, both trade and public, to visit.

Across the world, there has been a rise in “Destination Distilling”; that is, the idea of a distillery being something more than a production facility, becoming an attraction for tourists to visit.

Plymouth Gin has been open for the public to tour since 1985 and has had it’s present visitors centre since 2007, Beefeater opened their centre earlier this year, and income from visitors is now an integral part of the business plan for most new distilleries.

Bombay Sapphire’s new home for their distillery and visitors centre is in North Hampshire and has come after years of works and million of pounds of investment.

The Glasshouses (Mediterranean and Tropical) growing specimens of all of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire. They are heat from the excess heat from the stills.

The Glasshouses (Mediterranean and Tropical) growing specimens of all of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire. They are heat from the excess heat from the stills.

Laverstoke Mill operated as a paper mill from 1719 to 1963. From 1725, it held the sole contract for the production of the Bank of England’s banknote paper, at one time providing the paper for over 100 countries and colonies in the British Empire. In the second half of the 20th Century, however, the mill closed and fell into disrepair, until it was discovered as a potential location for a new distillery.

The new Bombay Sapphire Distillery had its grand opening on 17th September 2014 and I was lucky enough to be able to attend.

Distillery and Glasshouse

The Distillery in the background, toprical glasshouse to the right and designer Thomas Heatherwick in the foreground

As we arrived, the most striking feature was the glistening River Test, which runs through the site, surrounded on both sides by centuries-old mill buildings, all newly refurbished.

After some welcome drinks, including the delicious “Laverstoke”, including the non-alcoholic one that I picked up by accident, I was whisked upstairs to have a chat with Valarie Brass Global Brand Director for Gin at Bacardi Global Brands. This was a great chance to discuss some of the bigger picture aspects of Bombay Sapphire and the key focuses of Bombay Sapphire: “Creativity”, “Beauty” and “Expression”. There was obvious excitement about have a place to “bring to life key principles” and to “talk about what we believe in” something that I can imagine was quite difficult before such a large and growing brand had a dedicated base.

Mediterrean Glasshouse

An Orange Tree Inside the Mediterranean Glasshouse

The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of the two glasshouses: one tropical, and one mediterranean in climate. These were designed by Heatherwick Studios and are heated by the residual heat from the stills. Even though I had seen designs and 3D models of them, I nonetheless wasn’t quite prepared for how spectacular they were. The chance to see so many classic gin botanicals all growing together was fascinating.

The "secret bar" which will be Sam Carter's new "office" about 10 minutes after this picture was taken it was packed wall to wall.

The “secret bar” which will be Sam Carter’s (at the bar) new “office” about 10 minutes after this picture was taken it was packed wall to wall.

After this excitement I decided to slip off to the “secret bar” (Empire Bar) which was being tended by the distillery’s in-house senior brand ambassador Sam Carter. This bar doubles as a training facility for a variety of guests, trade and bartenders. Up here I had a mix of Bombay Sapphire, Pink Grapefruit Juice and Vanilla Syrup – the grapefruit and vanilla producing a chocolate flavour in addition to their own character – a phenomenon known as “Transmogrification” – something I consider a Sam Carter signature.

After that joint started jumping (see picture) I went in search of further adventure and found another bar inside one of the old vaults where the finished banknote were kept. This came complete with the original cast iron grate door at the entry. Here I was treated to an Aviation cocktail and a pleasant chat with gin experts Geraldine Coates and Patience Gould where we also had a sneaky sip of Bombay Dry at the new ABV.

Bombay Sapphire Laverstoke Mill Edition

No Bombay Sapphire event would be complete without one of their glamorous gift bags, and this event did not disappoint. In addition to some fine barware we got a bottle of the rare Laverstoke Mill Edition of Bombay Sapphire – beautifully packaged but for me, even more excitingly, bottled at an unusual 49%ABV. See here for tasting notes.

All-in-all I had high hopes for the distillery and my expectations were exceeded; an opening on this scale will never happen again and so it was great to be part of it. The distillery itself opens to the public in October and for me it is a must for gin fans and a great visit for anyone who is a fan of botany, stunning scenery or historic architecture.

For more details check out their website. Later this year National Geographic will be screening a documnetary about the creation of the distillery.

Bombay Sapphire Family

A New Home for the Family.


Afternoon Tea Cocktails with Courvoisier VS Cognac

This week is National Afternoon Tea week and as such Courvoisier Cognac have come up with a suitable cocktail inspired by the British institution of Afternoon Tea or Tiffin. This in turn has encouraged me to come up with some of my own inventions. I gave myself three

1) Use Tea in each drink
2) The cocktails are for the afternoon so they need to be light and not too alcoholic
3) Use Courvoisier VS in the drinks, as they were kind enough to send me a bottle for experimentation.

Here were the results:

1 Courvoisier Cranberry Cup Final

Courvoisier Cranberry Cup
Recipe: Brew one serve of fruits of the forest herbal tea, and chill, mix with 50ml Courvoisier VS, top with 50ml Cranberry Juice, serve
in a cup and saucer

A rich and very very fruity and jammy drink with a little warm complexity from the cognac. The intense and complex fruit aroma and flavours would make it a fun match for a classic scone smothered in jam and cream and perhaps the odd cucumber sandwich too!

1 Josephines Tea Final

Josephine’s Tea
Recipe: 25ml Courvoisier VS, 100ml Chilled Chamomile Tea, 10ml Lemon Juice, 10ml Triple Sec
Named after Napoleon’s wife Josephine, it is a variation on a Collins.
There is a nice tartness from the lemon followed by a mellow sweetness from the triple sec, chamomile and cognac. The complexity of the Courvoisier and the complex floral notes of the chamomile pair well together to make and invigorating, long afternoon drink.

1 Green Napoleon Final

Green Napoleon
Recipe: 25ml Courvoisier VS, 75ml Green Tea, 2 squeezed lime wedges, 10ml Sugar Syrup – Fresh Mint
Method: Add the cognac, mint leaves, lime into a glass and stir, add green tea and fill with crushed ice. Garnish with mint springs.

Similar to a very light Mojito which is lengthened with the green tea, given the lower ABV it is good to use the bolder flavours of a cognac rather than a light rum. The leafy elements of the green tea work well with the crisp mint with the lime adding a refreshing tang. A complex drink but one that is not too intense for the afternoon. Key Lime Pie anyone?

1 Earl of Cognac Final

Earl of Cognac
Recipe: 25ml Courvoisier Cognac, 1 Earl Grey teabag, 75ml Soda Water, 2 Orange wedges
Method: In a large wine or gin tonic glass add the cognac an Earl Grey tea bag and allow to infuse for 2 minutes. Remove tea bag, fill glass with ice and add soda water before garnishing.

A really easy cocktail to make but one with plenty of flavour, I was inspired by the Spanish Gin Tonica but I use sparkling water in a nod to the idea of lengthening cognac to bring it back down to wine-strength. A clean and very refreshing drink with a little wood warmth from the cognac and floral complexity from the tea, as well as a light touch of tanin. The orange works well with the Earl Grey’s bergamot and adds an extra zest.

1 Ginger Zinger Final

Ginger Zinger
Recipe: 25ml Courvoissier VS, 10ml Red vermouth, 75ml Ginger Tea
A herbal and complex drink with the warmth of the ginger being a natural match to the cognac and the herbal red vermouth working well with the ginger root and other spices of the teas. A little more intense than the other drink but sometimes you do need a little extra umph!

Making Ice Tea

For those who prefer a non-alcoholic tea drink, I shall share my simple method to make ice tea.

Making Ice Tea

1) Fill a large heat-proof jug with 500ml boiling water – add your tea bag of choice (I like Earl Grey)
2) Allow the tea bag to infuse for 4-5 minutes then remove
3) Add ice, wait for 3 minutes
4) When cold, pour ice tea into a glass and sweeten / add citrus to tatse (I personally don’t add any sugar)

Courvoisier VS is available for around £22 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange as well as supermarkets and liquor stores worldwide.






Video Coverage of The Béné RoadTrip 2012 with Bénédictine

Back in September I was kindly invited along to a roadtrip to Bénédictine as part of their cocktail competition. If you were following us back then you may recall this article I wrote on the road.

If pictures speak louder then words then this video must be cheering….

Super, Sonic Drinks – A Sensory Extravaganza at 69 Colebrooke Row

London is currently a hub of cocktail innovation with an army of bartenders constantly seeking to push and raise the bar. Molecular mixology, fine and inspiring garnishes and an array of homemade and small batch ingredients and spirits are all available at bars in 2012; indeed, it is an exciting time to be in the field. But what next? How about sound and cocktails? I headed on to 69 Colebrooke Row for a Sensory Masterclass to find out.

The Sensory Masterclass was a collaboration between the Drinks Factory, Condiment Junkie (soundscape artists) and Professor Charles Spence, who is Director of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford.

First of all, here are couple of quick definitions:

Soundscape – A recording or mixing of sounds used to create an immersive environment. For example, the sounds of the beach or of a forest walk.

Crossmodal Research – The study of the perception of an interaction that involves two or more of our five senses. For example, synesthesia, where you can hear a word and immediately associate a colour with it, or how something can taste “blue”.

After a brief introduction, we completed a couple of quizzes. We listened to six sounds and had to decide which were the sounds of hot liquids being poured and which were those of cold liquids; most people got all of these right. Things were trickier when it came to listening to four sounds and identifying whether they were designed to be sweet, sour, bitter or salty. This was far more difficult, with most people only correctly identifying sweet and bitter, although I think I only got one right!*

We then moved onto some drinks.

#1) The Rose

This was a simple cocktail, consisting of a rose-flavoured sugar cube in champagne that we drank whilst listening to sounds from a country garden. Half of the group were given a sheet with “Cocktail #1”, whilst the other half were provided with a full description of the cocktail, thus testing the power of suggestion. There were wind chimes in the soundscape, which were meant to evoke some of the sweeter characteristics of the drink.

#2) The “Blue” Drink

We were given this drink whilst keeping our eyes closed. We then had to taste it and shout out what colour we thought it would be. With some musky and tannin-like notes, it reminded me of red wine and therefore I suggested red-purple. One lady next to me said that she tasted Wasabi, so thought it was green.**

This turned out to be a reduced red wine, made using a rotovap, I think, and designed to taste blue. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of this one.

#3)  Woodland Martini – [Woodland Bitters, Gin, Dry Amontillado sherry]

Whilst wearing a pair of wireless headphones, we sipped the third drink whilst listening to one of three soundtracks; we were then able to switch between them, to see how, if at all, the different sounds affected the flavour.

The result was amazing: with the red channel (a low-pitched sound), the drink was unpalatably bitter, whilst with the green channel (a higher-pitched sound), the drink seemed sweeter; the blue channel (crunching wet leaves on an autumn day) made the drink seem colder. These were all my own personal observations, before any suggestion from the Professor.

The Professor went on to explain that, typically, people naturally associate bitterness with low frequencies and sweetness with high frequencies.

The Woodland Martini really illustrates the potential of combining sounds and drinks, but, in a social context, the headphones could be a bit intrusive. I discussed the use of sonic spotlight (highly directional speakers) as an alternative, which he has also been working with, as well as the potential of having the sounds come from the glass itself.

Why not check out the sounds here?

#4) Barbershop Fizz

The final drink of the session was a Gin-Collins-esque drink that used a variety of herbs and spices to evoke the fresh scent of a new haircut at a barbershop; the hints of pomades and moustache wax that are all familiar to me. There was also a slight hint of Dandelion & Burdock, which I believe came from the Birch.

Once again, we used our headphones to listen to a recording, this time of someone having their hair cut. This soundscape was produced by one of the sound artists using a pair of inverse headphone microphones during an actual haircut. The similarity was uncanny and the drink delicious.

In Conclusion

This was an enjoyable session and an interesting insight into a developing project and research that is at the cutting edge of crossmodal drinks. As the ideas and techniques evolve, I think that the experience will become even more impressive and, with possible innovations in speaker technology, the application of these techniques in a bar*** could become a more unobtrusive reality with a true hint of alchemy in the experience.

* The Professor then explained that bitterness and sweetness tend to be the easiest for people to clearly identify, both in taste and in sound, with saltiness and sourness being more tricky.
** This raises the question of association adding another factor to the perception of colour and taste. I spoke to the Professor about this and he says that some research has been done getting the public to taste exotic fruits that have relatively unknown flavours in the UK, thus avoiding any association with known items.
*** There is a question as to whether this would ever be part of everyday serves in some cocktail bars, or whether it would be reserved to special sessions. Certainly, at the moment, a lot of background noise impacts how easily you can appreciate the sensations.

Introduction to Cachaça

I’m always interested in expanding my knowledge of spirits and one area that I have neglected on the site is Cachaca*, so I’ve managed to source four varieties of unaged cachaca to taste and explore.

So what is Cachaça?

Firstly, Cachaça (“ka-shah-sa”) is a pretty important liquor, being the third most popular spirit in the world after Soju and Vodka. The majority of it is consumed in Brazil, which is the country from which it originates.

Cachaça is distilled from the juice of fresh, unrefined sugar cane. Rhum Agricole is also made using fresh sugar cane juice, but it differs from Cachaça in a couple of ways:
i) Rhum Agricole is distilled to between 65 and 75%ABV, compared to Cachaça’s 48-52%ABV (so it only needs a small amount of dilution before bottling);
ii) Cachaça often uses rice- or maize-based yeast to start the fermentation process, whereas Rhum Agricole will use sugar yeast;
iii) Rhum Agricole must be produced to the appellation standards and thus must be made in certain locations, whereas Cachaça must simply be made in Brazil (although it will be made close to sugar cane fields, as the cane must be cut no more than 24 hours before being pressed to be fresh enough for use).

But is Cachaça Rum?
Well, perhaps by the same rationale that would describe gin as a “flavoured vodka”, but this is an oversimplification and, when you are delving a little bit deeper into the subject (like this article intends to do), I don’t think it is a helpful one.

Types of Cachaça

1) White
Clear and unaged, with no more than 6 grams of sugar added per litre.

2) Adocada
A sweetened white Cachaça containing between 6 and 30 grams of sugar per litre.

3) Aromatised
A descriptive term for Cachaças that have been flavoured with herbs, spices or fruits.

4) Aged
Cachaça that has been matured in 700 litre wooden barrels. There are a number of types, based around how long it has been matured for:
i) “Aged” – matured for at least 1 year;
ii) “Premium” – aged for more than 1 year; and
iii) “Extra Premium” – aged for more than 3 years.

An interesting aspect of the aging process is that, typically, native Brazilian woods are used for the barrels rather than American Oak, etc.; some examples include Jequitiba, Amendoim and Amburana.

What does it taste like?

To get a handle on Cachaça as a spirit, I thought it was best to start by looking at the unaged version. Here are my thoughts on four examples.

1) Sagatiba Pura
Founded by Marcos de Moraes in 2004, Sagatiba is produced in the town of Patrocinio Paulista in the Brazilian State of Sao Paulo. The name comes from a combination of the prefix “saga” (Nordic for “legendary”) and “tiba” (“infinite” in the local Tupi language). In 2011, it was sold to Campari-Milano for $26 million.

i) On its own
Nose: Smoky with a touch of juicy citrus.
Taste: Wood smoke, raisins (like sherry) and the woody finish of a Highland Scotch.

ii) Caipirinha
Crisp and flavourful, with more of a hint of salty smokiness at the start; this gives way to some sweetness and a tart, lime finish. Clean and cooling.

2) Abelha
An organic Cachaça, Abelha comes from Bahia in Northern Brazil, where the sugar cane is grown organically on highland, sandy soil. The cut cane is processed within 24 hours and fermentation uses culture yeast originally found on green sugar cane.

i) On its own
Nose: A honeyed sweetness & fruity notes, like sloe berries or sweet plum.
Taste: Initially sweet and creamy, this is cleaner in flavour and less fruity than the others with a touch of vanilla and nectarine flesh. There’s an intriguing vegetable hint on the finish, somewhat like asparagus.

ii) Caipirinha
Richer, jammy, fruity flavours, such as peach, with a touch of raw honey. There is also a tiny hint of smoke and a touch of anise on the finish. Clean, yet comforting, this is both cooling and packed full of flavour.


3) Germana
Germana is made by Uniagro, but was originally made by the Caetano family on their Vista Alegra ranch. Germana means something which is genuine, pure, without mixing. Germana was also the name of a mystical nun who used Cachaça in medicinal preparations. Germana uses natural fermentation (using cornmeal-fed yeast in the sugar cane) for their mash.

i) On its own
Nose: Very fruity: figs, raisins; lots of jammy fruit. Also, a touch of spice.
Taste: Quite thick in texture, this is also rather rum-like, with flavours of dark treacle and raisins. It reminds me somewhat of Pusser’s or Wood’s Rum. The finish was clean, woody and dry.

ii) Caipirinha
Cooling and clean, with some hint of smoked ham and anise. Simple, but effective and with character, this is very easy to enjoy, having some depth but not being overly-complex.

4) BocaLoca
Often translated as “Crazy Lips”, BocaLoca make both standard, unaged Cachaca as well as a Passionfruit-flavoured Aromatised version. It is produced near Rio de Janeiro, exclusively for export.

i) On its own
Nose: Vanilla and cinnamon, like a cinnamon swirl, coffee and chocolate.
Taste: Sweeter, with a lot of vanilla, this is closer to a vodka than rum. There’s a creamy touch of sweetness and an initial burst of chocolate (reminding me of a pain au chocolat), followed by a dry and slightly bitter note on the finish, leaving a resounding sense of the combination of a breakfast pastry and a cup of coffee.

ii) Caipirinha
With vanilla and coconut elements, this is very clean, with a little sweetness at the end. It’s different to the others, having less flavour, but is nonetheless still quite intense and pleasant to drink.

*Rum is also under-represented, but with so many great rum websites out there, I have decided to steer clear; professional courtesy, if you will.

In Conclusion

As with almost other spirits, the flavours and characteristics of Cachaça can vary immensely (even among the unaged varieties), which was particularly well illustrated by the four that I tasted today. The differences came through both when sipping the spirit neat and when mixing them in a Caipirinha.


A Gin-Soaked Letter from America


Dear Friends & Drinkers of Graphic Bar,


As your gin-writer in residence, I am always exploring all things juniper. This August, I found myself in New York City and there was one spirit that was on my mind: GIN.

Bombay Sapphire Fruit Cup

Bombay Sapphire Fruit Cup

We started off early at Heathrow Terminal 5 with a mug of Bombay Sapphire’s Summer Cup. This comes at a time when this category is gathering more momentum and moving beyond Pimm’s with both Master of Malt and Chase launching new products in August.

The Bombay Sapphire Summer Cup was a mix of Bombay Sapphire Gin, Red vermouth and Orange Liqueur, served with ginger ale from pitchers with a fruity garnish.

Our second day saw a trip to the liquor store to pick up “essential supplies”; our shop of choice was Park Avenue Liquor at 292 Madison Avenue. I like to think of this as New York’s Gerry’s. The family who run it were both friendly and knowledgeable, and there is a great selection of gins, as well as Scotch and American whiskies, liqueurs and other spirits.

I picked up some Comb 9 Gin from New York State, which has a honey spirit-base (essentially distilled mead). This gives the gin a smooth and silky texture, with a lot of floral notes upfront. The gin describes itself as a New York Dry Gin, which is essentially a contemporary version of the Classic London style.

Comb 9 makes a crisp and floral Martini with a decent dose of coriander, which will appeal to fans of flowery gins such as Bloom or G Vine; it produces a pretty tasty Negroni, too.

Distiller Alan and I at NY Distilling

Distiller Alan and I at NY Distilling


Our trip also saw us visit two distilleries, the first of which was New York Distilling in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They make a regular gin (Dorothy Parker) and a Navy Strength Gin (Perry’s Tot). Their Shanty Bar was the location of our Navy Strength Gin tasting, where we tasted five gins, all bottled at 57%ABV, including the classic Plymouth Navy and the excellent new offering from Hayman’s, Royal Dock (both of which are available at Graphic Bar). The final two were FEW’s Standard Issue (hitting UK shores soon) and Leopold’s Navy Strength.


Distiller Brad and I at the Breuckelin Distillery

Distiller Brad and I at the Breuckelin Distillery

The second distillery we visited was Breuckelin (the Dutch spelling of Brooklyn), who make a regular gin, an aged gin, and two whiskies (Rye and Wheat). In addition to a tour with distiller, Brad, we also conducted a tasting of nine Yellow Gins in a continuation of the project that we started back in London at Graphic Bar.

The weekend saw the culmination of 6 months of preparation: The United States of Gin Tasting, a taster of which was experienced at Graphic on World Gin Day 2012. The concept was a simple one: try one gin distilled in each state of the US. Not every state has a distillery that makes a gin, but we aimed to get 30 and that was exactly what we got.

A tasting of 30 American Gins

A tasting of 30 American Gins

The tasting was organised by the author of America’s Gin Website, The Gin Is In, and myself, and some of the highlights included Southern Gin from Georgia, Bardeney from Idaho, and, my personal favourite, BIG GIN from Washington State.

We had a rather pleasant flight home with British Airways and I had a rather lovely gin and tonic with Gordon’s at 40%ABV (much better than the 37.5 stuff).

Hopefully this has given you a taste of the gin delights that New York has to offer, but, at the same time, it’s always good to be home. Time for a Gin & Tonic, I think…

All the best, David T. Smith

Imbibe Trade Show Competition (On-trade only)

This a little message from the folks at Imbibe about a competition with a rather excellent prize, unfortunately for my consumer readers, this is only open for folks working in the drinks industry and so the general public are not eligible to enter.

But as some consolation for those who are not eligible please scroll down for a note on a New York inspired cocktail just for you.

CLICK HERE to register for Imbibe Live 2012

New York Cocktail amde with J.W. Dant Bourbon

New York Cocktail

60ml Rye or Bourbon whiskey (we used J.W. Dant Bourbon)
20ml  fresh lime juice
10ml grenadine
5ml sugar syrup
Add orange peel & lemon twist in shaker
Shake with ice & strain

The Taste
(by Mrs. Smith)

The nose was delicious: fresh, fruity and sweet, but in a refreshing way that reminded me of fruit chews. After the sweetness, more genuine fruit notes came through: orange, grapefruit, lime and lemon all came to mind at various points.

The taste started off with a lovely lime flavour that has a sherbet-like sharpness to it. This then fades into a more weighty, but still sweet woodiness, followed by a creamy vanilla flavour.

The finish was a lighter version of the creamy butteriness that you can get with some ginger beers; the fresh fruitiness endures, however, and keeps the flavour vibrant until the very end. Lovely.

Star At Night – The New Gin Bar in Soho

There a new Gin Bar in town!

The Star at Night is a café by day, but, in the evening, a transformation occurs and it becomes a table service gin bar. The bar itself has been running for 10 years, but has only recently embraced gin on a wider scale. The café with which it shares the location has been running since 1933 and has been in the same family for nearly 80 years. I’ve not had the chance to go there yet, but am reliably informed by a few sources that it has a great 30s/40s atmosphere, with a lot of furniture and decoration from that period. There is also a vaulted cellar that will be used for special tastings.

I spoke to the latest generation of proprietors from the family, Julia, and she told me a little more about the concept behind the bar. They had hosted a few one-off gin parties, where they would stock a selection of ten or so gins and allow people to taste and explore the category. Such was the depth of interest in the differences between the gins, rather than just wolfing down Gin & Tonics, the focus of the bar soon shifted and the London Gin Club was born. The club is all about undertaking a celebration of gin and providing gin fans with the chance to meet and talk juniper on a regular basis.

Joining The Gin Club has the following benefits:

1) A numbered London Gin Club Members card, which can be used to receive 5% off premium gin at Gerry’s Old Compton Street;
2)  An allegiance card, which you will need to bring whenever you come to the bar. It is stamped each time you buy a gin cocktail and your tenth cocktail is on
3)  You will receive a monthly bulletin with details about any upcoming gin-related events and any new gins on the market.

For details of how to sign up click here.

The official launch of the London Gin Club is on Friday 30th March 2012 and details can be found on their blog here.

The Star at Night
22 Great Chapel Street, LONDON W1F 8FR
+44 20 7437 8778

Cocktails with… Harvey’s Pedro Ximénez Sherry


Grateful, having been introduced to sherry via my Harvey’s Bristol Cream review a couple of months ago, I was intrigued and pleasantly surprised when a bottle of Harvey’s Pedro Ximénez arrived recently. Still a newcomer to sherry, I’m enjoying exploring the range of flavours on offer and this was unlike anything I’ve tasted before.

Made from dried Pedro Ximénez grapes Pedro Ximénez is a dark sweet sherry that is often used to sweeten the flavour of other sherry blends. Harvey’s Pedro Ximénez is based on a solera founded in1919 and has an average age of 30 years.

On its own

There was a slightly tart edge to the nose, beyond which I found distinct hints of sweet, juicy raisins and brandy, reminding me strongly of Christmas pudding.

It had a wonderfully silky texture that was accompanied by an intense sweetness. Rich and fruity, there were hints of spice, chocolate and brandy, before a very definite flavour of raisins. The aftertaste was also distinctly of raisin – making me feel like I’d just eaten a handful! – that faded into a surprisingly dry finish that hung around for a little while.


This toddy had a strong, sweet nose of mincement and Christmas spice and pudding. The taste was intense and rich, of raisins and syrup, like sticky toffee or treacle pudding. Towards the end, this richness became slightly bitter, with lemon and orange notes coming into play before a dry finish.

I thought this was a marvellous toddy that reminded me of Christmas and rich, heavy pudding, whilst also not being overly sweet; a very “grown up” toddy.

Scottish Breakfast

Like most of the drinks that I tried with this sherry, the nose of the ‘Scottish Breakfast’ was distinctive; unlike all of the others, this nose was of sweet orange fondant, with tiny hints of  raisins and treacle behind it.

The flavours in the mouth unfolded in a distinctive pattern: it started with a raisin-like sweetness that slowly, gradually flowed into a smoky raisin flavour, before finishing with a little warmth and hint of orange. This was unlike any cocktail that I’ve tasted before and I was impressed at how remarkably balanced it was, despite the huge flavours within it. I’ll definitely be drinking more of these in the future!


The savoury tequila gave a salty start that quickly faded into a sweeter, raisin-like richness alongside Christmas spice notes: cinnamon and allspice.

Like the Scottish Breakfast, this drink combined two very unique, strong flavours that actually combine unexpectedly well without either losing any of their intensity. Alongside this, there was a lovely, glowing warmth in my stomach afterwards. Definitely a surprising sucess! 

On ice-cream

No doubt inspired by my repeated recognition of the flavours of various puddings, for my final tasting notes, DBS presented me with a champagne glass of Cornish cream ice-cream topped with Pedro Ximénez.

To start, the two components were very separate, with the creamy ice-cream flavour neatly offset by the rich, raisin and berry notes from the sherry. Gradually, though, the two literally melted into one another and the sherry lost its sharper edge; there was still a slightly tart, bitter tang at the back of the throat that stopped the whole thing from becoming sickly and reminded me of liquorice. There was a lasting finish from the sherry, which was dry and slightly cloying. Some people may be put off by the slight curdling that occurred where the two ingredients met in the glass, but for everyone else, this could be a worthwhile experiment!

In conclusion…

If you like raisins or Christmas pudding and aren’t adversed to strong flavours in your drinks, I’d highly recommend trying Harvey’s Pedro Ximénez. I was especially impressed at how well it went with scotch in my favourite cocktail of those we tried – the Scottish Breakfast – although the toddy came in a close second place.

– Mrs. B.

Cocktails with Johnnie Walker

Cocktails with Johnnie Walker
Last Friday, DBS donned his finest three-piece and grey fedora, and I, my favourite, flowery frock and we set off for our very first trip to the Goodwood Revival. Despite my having seen various advertisements and heard discussions on this event by friends in the vintage community, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the sheer scale of this event. There were literally people everywhere and a vast majority were dressed in honour of the Golden Age, including children; at one point we spotted a school party, all dressed in grey and crimson vintage uniforms and caps. All in all, it was quite a sight, even for someone used to seeing people dressed in vintage, and so I was immensely grateful to be grounded by the focus of our day: Johnnie Walker whisky.

We found the Johnnie Walker Racing Bar by walking through a vintage style Tesco store, through the subway beneath the racing track, and past a vast array of beautiful and exceptionally well-cared for vintage cars. The bar was set up within a wooden shed that had been meticulously decorated to look like one that might have been used by Rob Walker, with racing car, tools, desk, books and a tea mug, complete with dregs.

The Rob Walker Workshop - Click to enlarge

The Rob Walker Workshop – (Click to enlarge)

On the opposite side of the garage was a bar, serving Johnnie Walker Red and Black Label whiskies, plus a selection of cocktails created especially for the occasions. Given my fondness for scotch, I was delighted to be able to try the Johnnie Walker selection with the wonderful Colin Dunn (who we met at the recent Talisker event at Cowes Week, which you can read about here), but today, I thought I would run through the cocktails to hopefully inspire some experimentation before our British summer disappears completely! I will write about the whiskies on their own shortly, in a separate post.

Red Rose

Red RoseIngredients:

25mls Johnnie Walker Red Label
Fentimans Rose Lemonade
2 strawberries
1 lemon wedge
Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the Red Label. Top with the lemonade, drop in a strawberry and stir. Garnish with a pinch of chopped strawberry and a lemon wedge.

 This was, frankly, delicious. Delicate, but flavourful, the scotch hits your tongue first, with its sweeter, fruity notes highlighted, followed by a gradual increase in flavour that transformed into a strong, rose flavour, just like Turkish Delight. The finish was fruity and fresh, with the strawberries coming through and the lemon just rounding off the sweetness of everything else. Having recently tried Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade alongside some of its Floral Soda counterparts and knowing that it has a delicate flavour, I was amazed at how much of the rose came through in this drink. Lovely!
 Johnnie Walker Buck

Johnnie Walker BuckIngredients:
25mls Johnnie Walker Red Label
Top with ginger ale
2 lime wedges
Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the Red Label. Top with ginger ale and a squeeze of lime, using the lime wedges as a garnish.

In contrast to the Red Rose, the J.W. Buck was incredibly savoury. I found the nose to be ever so slightly salty – reminding me of the Tequila Fruit Cup that DBS made – which was supported by the freshness and acidity of the lime. When I tasted it, I got the sense that this drink worked very well with the whisky, allowing the spicy, woody notes to come through without any sweetness to mask them. The savouriness of this drink made it easy to drink, but this is unlikely to be the favourite of someone who prefers sweeter cocktails.


Stirling Collins

Stirling CollinsIngredients:
25mls Johnnie Walker Black Label
25mls lemon juice
10mls gomme
25mls rhubarb and apple juice
1 lemon wedge
1 sprig of mint
Shake the Black Label, lemon juice and gomme with the rhubarb and apple juice and pour into a tall glass. Top with soda and garnish with a lemon wedge and mint sprig.

This was an interesting one. I had two during the day they tasted slightly different, although both had a spicy nose, followed by the distinctive smell of the rhubarb and a slight, lemony bitterness. On the tongue, I thought that it was well-rounded, despite evolving a lot in the mouth. The first one that I had tasted a lot more of rhubarb, whereas the second was surprisingly savoury – as with the Buck, bordering on salty – and refreshing, especially given the amount of fruit juice in it. The rhubarb flavour became stronger in both drinks, with a tartness that reminded me of old-fashioned rhubarb boiled sweets, followed by a decidedly savoury finish.

Cream of the Crop

Cream of the CropIngredients:
25mls Johnnie Walker Black Label
Cream soda
Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the Black Label. Top with cream soda and garnish with an orange wedge. (Apple works too!)

Incredibly different to the last two! The cream soda is immediately evident as a very appropriate choice of mixer, given our vintage setting; the nose was strong, creamy and sweet, like milk bottle sweets. The taste was similarly sweet, with a smooth, creamy texture; the milky creaminess stayed at the top of my mouth. The Black Label came through afterwards, but it was faint and mainly served to add some weight with a slightly heavier, spicy, dark-toffee-like sweetness, highlighted by the orange. This would be good for those with a sweet tooth who don’t think that they could like a whisky cocktail.

.Stirling Collins and Johnny Walker Buck


In Conclusion…

Although I obviously liked some of these cocktails a lot more than the others, I thought that the selection overall was superb for that very reason: I have no doubt that most people would find a firm favourite amongst the list.

For those who like their whisky cocktails to taste predominantly of whisky, there was the Johnnie Walker Buck; for those who like heavier whisky notes, but something else going on as well, there’s the Red Rose; the Stirling Collins will satisfy those that like a more fruity expression of their whisky; and, finally, for those who would prefer less heavy whisky notes, want to try something new, or just have a sweet tooth, there’s the Cream of the Crop.

My personal favourite was the Red Rose, followed by the Johnnie Walker Buck, but I could happily drink any of these lovely concoctions, especially on such a glorious summer day as we had last Friday. I will be writing on the whiskies themselves shortly, no doubt by which point the autumn chill will definitely be in the air.

– Mrs. B.

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